What developers like about Android 4.1 'Jelly Bean'

Usability, accessibility, and enhanced search all excite mobile programmers

With its much-anticipated Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" OS release imminent, Google is keeping Apple on its toes in the mobile computing space, say software developers. "Jelly Bean" offers a host of feature improvements, pursuing smooth, fluid user interactions via Project Butter, expandable notifications, and personalized home screens.

"They've done a lot to improve things," says Ian Clifton, an Android developer at ARO, a mobile apps startup. "Each new version of Android has gotten a little bit faster, a little bit smoother, so they're closing that gap between Android and [Apple's] iOS. At the same time, we saw a lot of new feature releases," such as improved accessibility for visually impaired people and a "smarter" keyboard that learns which words users are likely to input.

[ Learn about Google's newfound focus on consumer electronics for the living room and why Google is turning over its Google Web Toolkit technology to a steering committee. | Work smarter, not harder -- check out InfoWorld's roundup of tips and trends for programmers in the Developers' Survival Guide. | Keep up on mobile and application development by subscribing to InfoWorld's Mobilize and Developer World newsletters. ]

Others also are taking notice of how Android is faring against iOS. "Personally, I'm an iOS kind of guy, but this is fully opening my eyes to the world of Android," says Sherban Drulea, a Web software developer at game producer Activision Blizzard. "It looks like the responsiveness and notification systems -- two features iOS hasn't implemented as well -- could give [Google] an edge."

Rather than viewing "Jelly Bean" as Android's equalizer to iOS, Marcus Kazmierczak, vice president of engineering at BabyCenter.com, says Google had already reached that milestone: "Both can do pretty much everything you want to do. They're on par."

Developers are taking notice of features such as Google Now, an enhancement to Google search for pinpointing information such as traffic conditions and sports updates based on users' past behavior. "The thing that interested me was the Google Now feature," Kazmierczak says.

What stood out to ARO's Clifton are smoother interactions in the UI and the improved accessibility. "I'm glad to see they're putting a lot more interaction in accessibility" for people with visual impairments, he says.

"The drop-down [capabilities on the interface] and everything else is very slick," says Greg Hohenbrink, manager of enterprise portals, collaboration, and content management at Scotts Miracle-Gro. More fluid gesture swipes on "Jelly Bean" devices are a plus for version 4.1, says Chris Schoenfeld, a developer in the future technologies group at book publisher Pearson. "They're paying a lot more attention to some rough corners in Android that need to be ironed out a little bit, and it's really good to see that," he says. Gesture swipes on Android have historically been problematic, he notes.

Also welcome were the enhanced widget capabilities in "Jelly Bean." "One really subtle thing that I really appreciated was the ability to move widgets to the different home screens" and have them resize themselves, says Blake Cicheskie, a computer engineering student at the University of Florida. "I had an [Android] 'Ice Cream Sandwich' tablet, where that became an issue sometimes when I wanted to add widgets or delete widgets."

Meanwhile, Cicheskie says the Project Butter visual performance improvements -- which ensure that all apps and processes refresh the screen at the same intervals -- "are really going to shine," he says. "It's really going to make Android much more smoother." Activision's Drulea also praises the visual improvements: "The most impressive things to me were probably the visual enhancements -- the frame rate and the responsiveness. ... That's pretty cool."

Another student, Apoorva Bansal of the University of Michigan, cites the new cards capabilities in search for presenting related information in one place. "That was definitely an improvement on the UI."

This article, "What developers like about Android 4.1 'Jelly Bean'," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Read more about application development in InfoWorld's Application Development Channel.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul Krill

Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?